Why teach people about sin?

I am learning more about the Catholic Church. And the more I learn, the more I wonder – wouldn’t we all be better off if the church just stopped teaching people about sin? (Or maybe stopped accepting new members altogether?)

Here’s my thinking:

  1. The only sins that can send you straight to Hell are mortal sins
  2. A sin can’t be classified as a mortal sin unless you do it with full knowledge that it’s sinful.
  3. If the church stopped teaching people what things were sins and which weren’t, then no one would have full knowledge, and no one would ever go to Hell.

Additionally, I read somewhere that non-Catholics who don’t believe Catholic doctrine can still be saved because they’re doing the best they can with what they know. But that once someone is Catholic, if they then turn their back on Catholic teaching, that they can no longer be saved because they had the truth and the rejected it. So again, wouldn’t people be a little better off just not accepting Catholicism to begin with?

Please discuss.

I’m not a theologian by a LONG shot, but here are my thoughts.

Slight correction. Mortal SIN (singular) can send you straight to hell. You only have to commit one. As I have heard it said: If you climb to the top of a tall building and step off the roof, you’ll die. You can’t use the excuse that you only did it once. Just want to make that clarification before I go on.

True, but some things are objectively grave matters (murder, adultery, rape, and so on).

All sin affects the Body of Christ, or the Church. There is more to sin than final damnation or paradise.

One of the Spiritual Acts of Mercy is to “instruct the ignorant.” I for one don’t want to go before God and say, “Yeah, I knew my sister was living her life in a state of mortal sin, but I was afraid she wouldn’t repent if she knew so I didn’t tell her.” God’s grace isn’t magical - we don’t get off the hook for our wrongdoings because of a loophole in God’s law, know what I mean?

Like I said, I am no theologian, but the idea of being ignorant to my own sin is a scary thought to me. As a convert, I have lived both ways, and know from experience that sin is toxic.

I hear you. The way some people talk, it makes it seem as if the only people who can go to Hell are well-educated Catholics.

Obviously, that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The truth is that, without Jesus, we are all going to go to Hell. Without His Church, we have no access to His Sacraments, which are the means of grace, to grow in holiness - which is another word for Saintliness.

We know that only Saints can go to Heaven, and we know that the only way to become a Saint is by means of the Catholic Church.

So, I highly recommend everyone to be a very good Catholic, so that they can be a Saint and get to go to Heaven. :thumbsup:

[FONT=Arial][FONT=Arial]Well first off if the Catholic Church ignored its mission to preach Christ and the reality of mortal sin, then it would obviously cease to be Christ’s Church and would be responsible for the sins of others, which means everyone goes to Hell. Furthermore even if the entire Catholic Church was silent about the conditions of mortal sin, this would not exempt people from committing mortal sin and being in the state of mortal sin. Note that the Church gives the conditions, not necessarily a specific list of sins. Also note the term "full knowledge” really means “sufficient knowledge”, which most of us can have through the light of reason and our conscience. Lastly to not preach about the reality of sin would be to commit the ultimate sin, and that is the sin against the Holy Spirit, because when you deny the existence of sin, you deny the existence of forgiveness for sins.

The conclusion; your way actually makes the road that leads to destruction even wider than before.

That directly contradicts statements made by the Church itself regarding salvation for non-Catholics.

To wit:

"Section 1260 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins by saying, “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Those words are quoted from Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (#22); the Catechism links them to the same Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (#16) and its Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (#7).

Section 1260 of the Catechism continues: “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”"

Not really.

Everyone who is saved becomes a Saint in Heaven, and it is by means of the Treasury of Grace built up by the Church that they are able to do so - even if they have never even heard of the Church. (e: an infant who dies right after being baptized)

People should not confuse “ordinary means of salvation” with “extraordinary means of salvation”

Yes you can go to Heaven even if you never heard the gospel of Jesus and about His Church. Yet that does not mean that because the Church did not explain to me that killing innocents, stealing or commiting adulthery were mortal sins I am somehow “free” to commit them :rolleyes:

The law is written in our hearts and we do have a conscience. Some people hear it more than others. I really would not like to be in the shoes of the ones that do not hear the voice of their consciences on judgement day.

In the end no one is forcing you to conform yourself to Christ. Salvation is a “Choice” we have to choose Jesus or rather respond to his call to us. It is up to us to accept His gift.

I’ll grant that things like murder are pretty universally obvious as sins.

But there are some “mortal” sins that no one would ever consider sins if the church didn’t bring them up – like masturbation, a natural, almost universal (including among animals) act that has proven health benefits.

If that is only a mortal sin if you’re aware of it, and if it would not fall in the category of things your conscience would advise against on its own if you weren’t part of the church, how is the Catholic church helping anybody by bringing it up?

Because ignorance is not a virtue, and it is virtue that leads to holiness; not ignorance.

Just because a person is ignorant that masturbation is a sin, does not take away the effects of the sin on his soul, even if he is not culpable for those effects. It still causes a lot of damage to his relationships, and it still gives him a distorted understanding of sexuality.

First of all, everyone who is saved is saved by Christ through the Catholic Church. No one is saved by Islam, Protestantism, etc. No one. The Church teaches, and has always taught that Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, Outside the Church there is no salvation (CCC 846). However, this doesn’t mean every non-Catholic will go to Hell. The Church recognizes that those, who are invincibly ignorant of the need to be Catholic (i.e. those who are outside the Church through no fault of their own) will not necessarily be damned. However, the Church also teaches that, as the road to salvation is narrow (Lk 13:24), the best chance anyone has of entering Heaven is through the fullness of the truth and the sacramental life of the Church.

Vatican 2 says that " those also can attain salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church… but often men, deceived by the Evil one, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged truth for a lie…Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all these, and mindful of the Lord’s command, “preach always the Gospel to every creature, the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.” (Lumen Gentium 16)

Basically, being in the Church is the best shot you’ve got. The sinful world is a like a flood, the Church is Noah’s Ark. Maybe a few people make it through on driftwood and some in the Ark don’t make it, but the safest place is inside the Ark. And those who may make it on the driftwood do so only in the wake of the Ark.

Second, no one is ignorant of the natural law (CCC 1860). Thus, no one can claim a lack of full knowledge in regards to breaches of the moral law, such as sodomy. Other Christian groups teach that committing sodomy is not sinful unless it is rape. Someone in one of those groups might then decide to live a homosexual lifestyle and never repent. Sodomy is grave matter. No one is ignorant of the natural moral law. Said person consented to homosexual behavior. This is mortally sinful and this person would be heading to Hell.

Third, ignorance must not be the fault of the person sinning or it increases rather than decreases the severity of the sin. A person must properly form their conscience. To not do so isn’t a free pass to sin without guilt (CCC 1791) but is in itself a sin. Ignorance of the sinfulness of something comes into play only with those things we couldn’t have know. Again, the moral law is written on the hearts of all men, thus no one can claim ignorance there.

As I mention in my post above, no one is ignorant of the moral law as it is written on the heart of everyone. People can delude themselves, or at least try to, but ultimately no one is ignorant of the moral law, including the wickedness of masturbation. Thus, everyone is culpable for the sin of masturbation as long as they give consent (i.e. they are not drugged or forced to against their will in some other manner). See the CCC which reads:

1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

No offense, but that is ****. Do you honestly believe that if you hadn’t been brought up to believe masturbation was a sin, that you would still consider it a taboo? That touching your own body in a way that felt good and made you healthier – a way that you most likely began doing by instinct as a toddler before you ever even knew what sex was, and that you most likely had to be taught NOT to do around other people – would somehow instinctively strike you as evil without someone giving you that idea?

Lol wow, serious filters on this forum, huh? I can’t believe that word got asterisked

Yes. That is why nobody talks about it. That is why teenage boys sneak around, take just a little too long when going to the bathroom, and lock their doors and pretend they didn’t realize the door was locked when mom or dad knocks. It is why people will say, I’ll be right back, I’m gonna use the restroom, but nobody announces, I’ll be right back gonna masturbate.

Yeah. The filters are pretty severe.

I don’t think anyone bases their morality on what toddlers think is okay. Toddlers also think it’s okay to poke people’s eyes out to see what they’re made of, they eat dirt, and they dart into traffic if you don’t grab hold of them tight. So they aren’t really a bellwether for things that are okay or “natural” to do. :wink:

Well getting up to go masturbate while you have company is just sort of weird and creepy to begin with. Who does that?

But I would argue that all that secretive behavior you’re describing is because we’ve been TOLD that it’s bad behavior, and that we would not act that way if we weren’t previously instructed as such. For teenagers, it’s also partly because it’s an act that demands a certain amount of privacy, while the parents of teenagers are not really big on giving them a lot of privacy. I also went to great lengths to hide my diary from my parents, but I wasn’t doing that because I saw writing in a diary as intrinsically evil.

Good post!

It makes me think of this other point.

Many animals are also known to eat their offspring. Just as we shouldn’t look at toddlers to show us what is right and natural for humans, looking at animals for lessons in behavior is unadvised. Trust me, you don’t want to base your arguments for masturbation or homosexuality on animalistic behavior.

No, toddlers are a perfect example of exactly what IS natural to do! That’s my whole point – if we had some moral law written on our hearts, we would all tend to gravitate toward some kind of societal order without the help of society. But that doesn’t happen at all.

The “natural law” for toddlers is all about selfish, self-pleasing, tantrum-throwing fun. And they pretty well stay that way unless someone teaches them how they are EXPECTED to act. Civilized, “moral” behavior is something you have to learn from those around you – not something you just naturally know.

Well. I mean, if you’ve made up your mind that that’s what it is, nobody’s gonna be able to convince you otherwise. The Catholic Church has had its teachings for an awfully long time and its pretty arrogant of anybody to think they know better than the oldest continuously functioning organization in the world. The Church isn’t really all that interested in popular demand. That is why people don’t “vote” for the Church’s teachings like they do in some sects. The Church’s teachings will never change. So don’t try to convince anybody you’re right about this, and if you’ve already decided that you ARE right, good luck!

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.